Author Archive for Cory Miller

Find Belonging, Support With An Entrepreneurial Peer Group

In 2010, I was going through a tough divorce (aren’t they all) while my business was starting to really take off.

Despite the outward facing business success, I was also battling what I now know is pretty typical of the entrepreneurial experience: conflict, pain, stress, and perhaps burnout INSIDE my business.

It was the first time in my journey as an entrepreneur I thought maybe I’d rather work anywhere else.

And in so many ways I felt like my entire life was in full reboot mode. Or perhaps all my systems felt like they were crashing on me.

I can still recall sitting in my new little apartment, with sparse furniture (think an Ikea couch and bed), only Gatorade and cookie dough in the fridge, and feeling the empty longing of loneliness.

Not many people in my life at that time could come close to relating to what I was going through as a human combined with being an entrepreneur.

I was suffering in solitude.

And I was craving authentic relationships with like-minded people on a similar path who knew what living the entrepreneurial life — with its sometimes drastic ups and downs — meant and who were walking it every day, like me, and wanted to walk together with others too.

To be frank I wanted deep, committed friendships with people who just got me, who were willing to open up their otherwise much guarded lives to another human being, and to be myself with them, and to get support and encouragement.

I desperately wanted to share my life — the successes AND the struggles — with those who got the unique demands, responsibilities, pressures, stresses, worries and pains of entrepreneurship.

I wanted a bond. I wanted to take off my mask and be real, even if for a few moments or hours.

I wanted to know … I was not alone.

I also wanted to know my struggles weren’t any different than others. I wanted to hear their stories of struggle and triumph.

I wanted to use those stories to find my own truth in order to make my life better.

(Here are 5 Ways Entrepreneurial Peer Groups Improve My Life.)

The next year, I found that in a group of entrepreneurs meeting in Oklahoma City, where I live.

(Six years later, I’m still with that group every month for three hours …. and in a couple of days we’ll be heading out on our annual retreat.)

They were water to my thirsty soul. And now, years later, I know how crucial they’ve been to my health and happiness as an entrepreneur, husband, and father … and just human being.

If you’re like me … you need that too. Right now.

It wasn’t just this one isolated season of time, either, that showed how desperate I was for this genuine companionship … it’s every day since that time I’ve realized how much I NEED it.

I naively thought I could just keep walking by myself (yeah, Superhero Syndrome still has remnants in me) … but the truth I realized fully was that:

I NEVER WANT to walk alone on this journey as an entrepreneur again.

It’s a people and a place to belong.

We talk about riding the roller coaster of entrepreneurship, yet don’t surround ourselves with the team of support people for when the tough times come. (These are the rush in, while others run out people.)

We also say “work on our business, not in it” but we don’t often take time to work on and invest in OURSELVES.

Through my experiences, I believe we were as humans and as entrepreneurs meant to live and breath in community.

Together.

Not alone.

Together is so much better.

And as I’ve traveled and talked openly about how these types of small groups of entrepreneurs have had such a profound effect on my life, one key question ALWAYS pops up:

How do I get into one of those groups?

And until now, I didn’t have a good answer or solution to offer, and I’ve been on a mission to find a good answer.

Now I do.

I’ve partnered with Sherry Walling, a Ph.D. experienced psychologist who works regularly with entrepreneurs to start a new entrepreneurial peer group called ZenTribes.

We’ve taken the best of what I’ve gotten from my entrepreneurial groups, along with Sherry’s wealth of experience helping others in her practice, as well as working with entrepreneurs, to offer something tangible and good and impactful.

We recorded an entire podcast episode to talk all about entrepreneur groups and their benefits here.

We’re taking applications now for our next groups. Go check ZenTribes out and see if it’s time for you to take the next step in investing in yourself.

5 Ways Entrepreneurial Groups Have Improved My Life

Since 2011, I’ve been a part of 3 formal entrepreneurial life groups. Although that’s not their names, that’s the way I see them.

And the impact of those groups, the time I’ve spent in them, and the relationships I built through them have been priceless.

They have had a profound positive impact on my life and business.

In fact, I don’t think I’d survive without them. They have exponentially increased my health and happiness … and yes, my business has grown because of it too.

Increasingly I believe every entrepreneur should have some sort of small group of entrepreneurs to be able to do life together with.

Entrepreneurship is one of the toughest, most demanding and lonely jobs out there … and too often we try to go it alone.

Here are the most profound benefits I get from these entrepreneurial groups:

1. I’m Not Alone.

Entrepreneurship is one of the toughest, most demanding and yet loneliness jobs there is.

Having a group of people on the same or similar journey to share life and experiences together is one of the most profound, deeply impactful times of my life.

Every time I’ve met with these awesome entrepreneurs, I say to myself, “I am not alone. Everybody has the same problems, with different names attached to them.”

There’s a special hope that comes from knowing the universe hasn’t singled you out for misery.

My struggles aren’t as unique as I thought. Other people are often dealing with the same things as me, or will.

And through that experience, I have found unparalleled camaraderie and friendships that I couldn’t get anywhere else.

We, entrepreneurs, are a special breed, we deal with certain life situations, pressures and stresses that most don’t.

But these fellow entrepreneurs get me, are there for me, walking with me, sharing their life and experiences with me and vice versa.

It’s a place and a people to truly belong … and to never suffer in secret or solitude again.

2. I Learn and Grow and Improve My Life

Every time I meet with entrepreneurs I learn something new that benefits and improves my life.

There is no competition or judgment, but it helps me see areas I need to develop more and their example helps me model new behavior, especially in unknown territory (like becoming a dad for the first time).

Hearing others share their experiences over just giving advice allows me to know the full story, not just 140-character glossy version of it … and I get to draw my own takeaways from that.

3. I Can Take Off My Mask and Be Me

I can be open ….. and let down my guard and share things I can’t or don’t or won’t with others in my life (or business) in a safe, confidential people, without judgment.

Whether it’s a key struggle I’m wrestling with, or a huge success that I can’t otherwise share, I can in these groups.

Too often we simply bottle things up and then they inevitably end up blowing up in us. Or we check off a dream from our list … yet have no one to share that with.

I can be open, let my defense down and feel safe and embraced doing so.

4. My Life and Experiences Can Help Others Too

It’s tremendously rewarding to get help from others, but also to give help too.

By being part of these groups, I also help and support others to improve their lives and work on their struggles by sharing my own life and experiences.

It’s not about giving advice, or telling them what to do … it simply saying, “I’ve been through a similar situation and here are the details of it all.”

Being generous with my life and experiences is an incredible reward. We’re in this together.

5. Investing In Myself Benefits Everyone Around Me

So many times, we hear the advice — “Work on your business, not in it.”

But when are we encouraged to work and invest in OURSELVES.

These groups allow me to set aside time to invest in myself that benefits everyone in my life.

I hate booking my schedule full of things so I have a limited number of repeating events. But I also know I need a set, fix, recurring time. If I don’t have something on my calendar (fourth Tuesday of every month) I’ll come up with every excuse to miss meeting with other people.

This is a focused, set and consistent time that gives me a great dose of camaraderie as well as time to invest in ME and to give to others.

And my wife, my team, my partners and my customers feel the difference when I do.

***

Ready to Find Your Group?

Every time I’ve talked about the entrepreneurial groups I’ve been a part of, a number of people always say — How can I find one like that?

If you’re interested in these kinds of groups, I’m excited to share that I’m collaborating with Dr. Sherry Walling of ZenFounder.com, an experienced psychologist who works extensively with entrepreneurs, to start something new called ZenTribes.

It’s the culmination of several months of conversations and planning that we’ll be launching very, very soon.

If you’re interested in ZenTribes and what we’re rolling out … be sure to hit the link below to subscribe for our launch and upcoming groups.

Get Updates about ZenTribes

Two Things I’ve Learned Being an Entrepreneur and Parent

I was five years into starting and running iThemes when I added a new title to my resume: Dad.

Being an entrepreneur and a father is a very interesting combination. It brought up new issues, challenges and questions for me. In fact, it was one of the questions I went to my business group about before our first child was born, as many of them were already fathers and entrepreneurs.

My friend Ben Welch-bolen (and new father) has started a great new site called Entrepreneur Parents to share advice and experiences for those of us who are both. He asked me to chime in and I gave two answers, which you can also read here, but I wanted to share my thoughts to the questions here as well, so here goes:

With kid(s) and a business, what do you do to maintain your relationship with your spouse?

This has been our biggest struggle — simply making time for each other.

We quickly realized, no matter the cost, we had to do weekly dates. We found early on that night time dates (especially with infants) did not work well for us. We’d end up falling asleep on the date.

So now we do Day Dates, typically on Saturdays.

We can tell the difference when we skip a Day Date or simply don’t get one for a week or two. And continue to realize that it’s an investment in US, and we know the better we are together, the better we are for our children.

Plus, my mentor warned me …. we spend 18+ years raising kids and all the time-consuming activities and focus that includes … then one day they are gone, and we’re left with an empty house and a stranger.

We heeded that warning.

By the way, one huge benefit of having a physical office is we use it to get sushi and wine for lunch, watch movies, and talk on a couch while our kids are under the care of someone else at home. In the past, we would bounce around to different restaurants or places and spent more time, energy and money wandering like nomads than sitting and talking and enjoying quality time with each other. We still go out, but we know we have another “home base” to go to, something many others don’t have the benefit of.

What is the #1 piece of advice you would give an entrepreneur who is about to be a parent on how to balance those two worlds?

When I became a father, my business (my first baby) was in a good place. I tell people my busiess is now in kindergarten and under “adult supervision.” So the timing was really good to be able to focus less time and energy on my business than I did in the startup years and to shift that focus more to my children and family for a nice balance.

I have more time and energy constraints now as an entrepreneur and father, which I think is actually a very good thing. I have obsessive and workaholic tendencies and now I simply can’t (or won’t) do the things I did in the beginning, which gives me such a better perspective on life.

I’ve been able to focus on empowering and mentoring others in the business to do some of the things I frankly shouldn’t have been doing. I prioritize my time and energy so much better now.

The biggest thing I struggle with now is taking off my CEO hat when I get in the door at night and putting on the “Daddy” hat. It’s been a frustrating struggle, honestly. I’ve spent so much of the last 9 years being the leader, the one people look to, working with a team of adults and professionals, being able to give direction and know it’ll be done, that I have to reset my mindset when I’m home. I’m so much more of a caregiver, a teacher, a listener at home, but it’s also helped with business.

Patience is truly a virtue. And one I’m continually working on.

***

Go share your thoughts over at Entrepreneur Parents too! 

 

Disclaimer: Why I Share My Mental Health Struggles Publicly

As I’ve been sharing openly about mental health and some of my own struggles publicly over the last couple of years, I wanted to make sure I shared the context and purpose for doing so.

When I share my mental health struggles as I have here, it isn’t for public therapy … that’s when I go to my counselor and support network … privately … with trusted people, in a safe and confidential environment.

That’s not to say I haven’t on occasion fallen for doing so on Facebook or Twitter. I have. And almost always regretted it.

Mainly because that’s not therapy, that’s generating sympathy. And typically a very superficial one at that, because whatever benefits I think I might get from it don’t last.

It’s coating the surface temporarily with a warm glaze while not working on the real problems inside, which I believe should not be done in a public manner.

It’s a big and important difference to make in the conversation about mental health.

And I don’t want to give any illusion that that’s what I’m doing or expecting others to do too by sharing so openly publicly.

In fact, most of the things I share publicly happened 6+ years ago. I’ve talked through them, sought help for them, healed from them, in the past, privately.

Again, my experiences in growth and healing tell me that that happens with a licensed professional counselor, maintaining a private journal where I get to vomit out my emotions, feelings and frustrations in order to release them and understand them better, and sharing my struggles with a private, trusted, safe, confidential support network who have my best at heart, my key people are listed here.

However, when I do share publicly, my purpose and goals are simple:

To use my life and past struggles to say:
You’re not alone. Everybody hurts.

So that … others are empowered to seek and get help and encouragement they need.

And, finally, to erase and eradicate the stigma of mental health on this planet.

And you know what, I haven’t shared ALL of my struggles, I’ve shared SOME of my struggles. Yes, there’s always more to my Iceberg! But I share the ones I think would make the biggest impact and difference for others (depression and divorce being the most resonating ones so far).

It’s become increasingly clear that as I do share more, I share them through these filters and purposes. Otherwise, I’m just trying to garner that instant, mostly synthetic, ‘feel better now’ feeling.

BUT … when others talk openly for those reasons … it makes me SO proud and inspired. It shows change is happening!

Last night, I got to listen to the WP Elevation Facebook Live episode where host Troy Dean was talking with my friends Carrie Dills and Matt Medeiros about this vital subject of mental health. It was a fantastic episode that I highly recommend.

Listening to the show last night, prompted me to write this … it was an amazing example of what I’m seeking to achieve here and I’m so thrilled others are doing so too.

And if you’re struggling and hurting … make a call. Reach out to your support network. And seek and receive the help and encouragement you need today. Please.

Three New Books I’m Desperately Trying To Eat At Once

Here are three books I can’t wait to read ALL at once and wanted to share. I’ll likely have some notes, tweets and reviews later as they all are packed with great information:

You can see my all-time reading list here for books I’ve read and love.